Midland, a city of 42,000, is about 8 miles downstream from the Sanford Dam and faced an especially serious flooding threat. Dow Chemical Co.'s main plant sits on the city's riverbank.
Late Tuesday, Whitmer warned that downtown Midland could be "under approximately 9 feet of water." By early Wednesday, river water levels continued to rise, reaching a new record -- and are expected to crest Wednesday evening.
Families living along the Tittabawassee River and connected lakes in Midland County were ordered to leave home and seek shelter, heightening concerns during the pandemic.
Wednesday morning, water that was several feet high covered some streets near the river in downtown Midland, including riverside parkland, and reaching a hotel and parking lots.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, who is scheduled to visit Michigan on Thursday, posted his support on Twitter for efforts to respond to flooding in mid-Michigan that has resulted in thousands of evacuations.
"My team is closely monitoring the flooding in Central Michigan -- Stay SAFE and listen to local officials," Trump posted about 10:20 a.m. "Our brave First Responders are once again stepping up to serve their fellow citizens, THANK YOU!"
He also said in a separate post that his administration had already activated military and Federal Emergency Management Agency response teams, but said Whitmer -- who Trump has criticized in the past -- "must now 'set you free' to help."
Whitmer had said at a news briefing late Tuesday she had contacted federal officials for help and activated the National Guard, so it wasn't immediately clear what Trump was trying to say by saying she needs to take some additional action.
The National Weather Service is urging anyone near the river to seek higher ground following "catastrophic dam failures" at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles north of Detroit, and the Sanford Dam, about 7 miles downriver.
The governor has declared a state of emergency for Midland County and urged residents threatened by the flooding to seek out one of several shelters that opened across the county or find a place to stay with friends or relatives.
She also encouraged people to do their best to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as wearing a face covering and observing social distancing "to the best of your ability."
On Wednesday, Whitmer added: "When the chips are down, the people of Michigan are able to rise up. We're tough. We're smart, and we care about each other. And so long as that guides our actions, we're going to get through this -- and we're going to get through it together."
(c)2020 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
GRAPHIC (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): WEA-MICH-FLOODING